French Bread

This recipe is adapted for size from 2 loaves to one from James Beard’s ‘Beard on Bread’ reprinted edition 1995.

Equipment:

Oven – leave oven cold till baking begins

Bowl for mixing bread/rising bread

Measuring spoons/cups

Clean surface for kneading and shaping dough. Could be a cutting board, countertop etc.

Pan to bake bread on like a big flat sheet pan.

Knife to cut slits in top of dough

Yeast6g or 2 teaspoonsThis yeast is instant yeast. Other types like rapid rising or packets of yeast will work too. This recipe uses most of one US packet of yeast.
Sugar1 packet or up to 1.5 teaspoons 
Warm Water1 cupWater should be room temperature to warm water but not hot! Hot water would damage yeast and make bread unable to rise, maximum temp 115F/46.1C  
Salt2 scant teaspoons*scant means just under. This recipe takes 1.87 teaspoons kosher salt. If you are using iodized table salt use slightly less 1.5 teaspoons.
All Purpose Flour3 cups 
Egg White1 egg white with 1 Tablespoon cold waterSet this aside for brushing the bread before baking
ButterEnough to grease a bowl for rising 

Instructions:

Ready to start? Wash your hands and nails well before beginning to make bread.

  1. Combine the yeast, sugar, and 1 cup warm water. Set aside for a few minutes to activate the yeast.
  2. Mix flour and salt.
  3. Combine the flour/salt with the yeast mixture in a bowl to make a rough and shaggy looking dough.
  4. Knead the dough for 10 minutes on lightly floured surface. Sprinkle a little flour on a clean dry surface. Spread it around with your hand. Put the dough on the surface, using the palms of your hands, push it against the surface away from you to stretch the dough mixing it further. Scoop it back together into a ball quickly and repeat this motion. It is pushing down and out and together over and over. The goal is to work the dough and develop gluten. The dough should become less sticky, more cohesive, and very stretchy.
  5. Wipe out the mixing bowl. Grease the inside with a small amount of butter.
  6. Place ball of dough in the bowl.
  7. Set dough in a warm but not hot place for 2 hours or till the dough doubles in size. You can cover the dough with plastic wrap or a very clean un-fuzzy dish towel. (If a dishtowel is not extremely clean it can add unwelcome flavor or even bacteria to your bread.)
  8. When dough has doubled, deflate the dough punching it down.
  9. Spread flour on your work surface. Shape the dough into an elongated oval.
  10. Shape the French bread. Picture a center line from one end to the other of your oval. Starting at one end, pinch and fold the outer edges of dough toward the center line. Work from one end to the other. The loaf should become slightly longer and straight/even, with a seam down the center.
  11. On the baking pan, place the loaf seam side down. You can fold the ends under slightly.
  12. Take your egg white mixed with cold water. Brush it over the loaf. Do not let egg white mixture pool on the pan, it will burn.
  13. Take a knife and slash the top of your loaf on the top, three times diagonally. This allowed the bread to rise as it bakes a bit, and gives it an attractive look.
  14. Let bread rest 10 minutes.
  15. Put the bread in COLD oven. Turn oven on to 400F. Bake for 15 minutes, reduce oven temperature to 375F. Bake for 20 additional minutes. Bread should sound hollow when tapped. If done, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Enjoy.
Here is another simple way to shape french bread too – Video shared from FCIIBP youtube channel.
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